There is a growing body of research indicating that CBD has the potential to help with sleep-related issues by way of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the 1980s, an astonishing amount of research has taken place due to the complexity of this system and its multitude of tasks. Today, researchers believe that CBD’s ability to work with the ECS could help regulate the sleep/wake cycle — in other words, it can make you feel alert during the day and tired at night.
Humans, like all mammals, have an endocannabinoid system. This biological regulatory mechanism is comprised of a vast network of receptor sites that can be signaled or stimulated by certain molecules found in the body, called endocannabinoids. They are surprisingly similar to phytocannabinoids which are found in the cannabis plant, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
These compounds work with two main types of receptor sites are found in the body, known as CB1 and CB2. There are also two identified signaling molecules, arachidonoyl ethanolamide (AEA or anandamide) and 1-archidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), which are among at least five enzymes that break down and metabolize endocannabinoids. Researchers have discovered that the ECS seems to work outside its own boundaries and interact with several other non-cannabinoid systems in the body, which is why it can have such a profound impact on multiple aspects of restoring health and illness.
In fact, according to a 2013 review by researchers from the Laboratory of Physiologic Studies at the National Institutes of Health, “Modulating the endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans, including obesity/metabolic syndrome; diabetes and diabetic complications; neurodegenerative, inflammatory, cardiovascular, liver, gastrointestinal, and skin diseases; pain; psychiatric disorders; cachexia; cancer; and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, among many others.” This is why CBD has been suggested as a treatment for so many seemingly unrelated conditions: it has the power to interact with this highly complex — and important — system.
Put simply, the endocannabinoid system helps your brain produce the chemicals that make it ready for sleep. A 2003 study led by scientists from the Neurology Department of Harvard Medical School found that, “Anandamide increased adenosine levels in the basal forebrain and also increased sleep,” which the research team believed would indicate “a potential therapeutic use of endocannabinoids to induce sleep in conditions where sleep may be severely attenuated.”
CBD’s role in this process is still the subject of much debate, but an article published in Translational Psychiatry suggests that it “moderately inhibits the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide.” Taken in conjunction with the previous study, this suggests that CBD can “prolong” the availability of your body’s natural endocannabinoid (anandamide), which would lead to improved sleep quality and duration.
The complexity of this system and all of its mechanisms has not yet fully been understood, but the research appears to correlate with improved sleep patterns, as well as an overall boost in healing and recovery. This supports many anecdotal reports from people who have stated CBD has been a positive impact on their lives, improving such conditions as insomnia, chronic pain or inflammatory ailments, anxiety, depression, and many others.